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  1. #1
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    Cantilever vs V-brake with STI

    Wasn't quite sure where to post this. My Specialized Tricross Sport, which was originally designed to take cantilever brakes. However the one I got came setup with v brakes, but with apparently standard Tiagra STI shifters, and cyclocross interrupters. The braking has never been great, and the pads have to be set up very close to the rim, which makes them very susceptible to minor deformations in the rim.

    The LBS has now received authorisation to swap the brakes over to cantilevers at no cost to me.

    This is probably a no-brainer, but is there any reason I wouldn't want to make this swap? V-brakes are theoretically "better", but without matching levers, I'd surely be better off swapping?

    I'm not a big brake freak, and haven't had problems stopping when I need to, but I do find when braking I have to squeeze a long way to get from nothing, through that hissing sound, to actually really grab the rim. Is that what you'd expect, or do I just not know what I'm talking about?

    Steve

  2. #2
    Forever CLYDE ! cyberpep's Avatar
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    2007 Cannondale T2000 Brakes
    Hi Stevage, maybe check out the dicussion in the above forum. I am thinking that the only thing wrong with your brake setup is that they didn't use a travel agent, due to the long squeeze on the brake lever. It is required in order to double the pull for the v-brakes from a standard pull STI brake lever.
    The v-brakes should be superior compared to cantilever. I wouldn't be so quick to convert back to cantilevers even if it is free of charge, most everone that I discuss their poor braking on a loaded touring bike with are converting from cantilever to v-brakes.
    If you search the BF you will find a lot of discussion on cantilever brakes and also on brake pads. I personally use kool-stop brake pads and would never try anything else.
    Happy touring
    Last edited by cyberpep; 05-28-08 at 07:11 AM.
    2003 Giant Cypress R
    2007 Cannondale T2000

  3. #3
    Slow Rider bwgride's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by stevage View Post
    The braking has never been great, and the pads have to be set up very close to the rim, which makes them very susceptible to minor deformations in the rim.
    Steve
    If this is the case, then most likely the brake levers were designed for short-pull (cantilever) brakes, not v-brakes, so you don't have adequate mechanical advantage. Stated differently, your brake levers are not pulling enough cable to actuate the v-brakes properly, so braking will be weak (especially at times when most needed). I don't know many drop-bar brake levers that are designed for v-brakes, so chances are good your brake levers were designed not for v-brakes but instead for cantilever brakes. I would certainly want to make that exchange to cantilever brakes.

    Sheldon Brown discusses some of this here:

    http://sheldonbrown.com/cantilever-geometry.html

  4. #4
    Senior Member Nigeyy's Avatar
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    That's a tricky one. If you really aren't happy with your current braking.......

    On one hand (at least to me!) clearly your bike should not have come with v-brakes and the short pull STI cable pull levers -unless they are mini v-brakes that is -as STI cable pull is just not enough for the standard size v-brakes. As you mentioned, the problem is that your brake pads will have to be set incredibly close to the rim -any slight offset in the rim will result in catching brakes (no wonder you've been given the go ahead to replace them at no cost to you!)

    I would suggest you'd be better off with a brake that matches your cable pull -e.g. well setup quality cantis with good pads with STI levers. However, there are adapters on the market that will enable STI levers to work with v-brakes, the caveat is that it seems they do not get glowing reviews (my friend had some, didn't like them and took them off installing cantis in the end). And of course, the adapters are not cheap either.

    Assuming you keep your v-brakes and go with long pull road brake levers (DiaCompe 747s(?) or the new Tektro long pull road levers), the problem is that if you change out your STI levers, what gear change system will you use? You can install bar end shifters, downtube shifters or even Kelly Take offs, but all these options aren't exactly cheap.

    Interestingly, I have mixed and matched long pull brakes with short pull levers with great success -but I think that was only because the particular short pull brake lever I had was pulling more cable than the usual short pull lever such as the STI lever.

    Course, if you are happy with your current braking system as is, leave it alone! Maybe you could ride a bike with well setup cantis and STI levers at your local bike store to feel the difference? And of course, if you do go with the cantis, make sure you are getting reasonable quality canti brakes and pads.

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    Stevage-

    My wife and I just picked up (and were fitted on) our '08 Tricross sports. Hers, a 52" frame came with canti brakes. Mine (a 56" frame) came with V-brakes.

    I haven't gone for much of a ride on the bike yet, but even around the lot, the V-brakes felt somewhat weak. The shop said they hadn't seen any prior Tricross's with V-brakes, and said if they dont feel right, they'd get/install some good cantis for me.

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    Quote Originally Posted by stevage View Post
    Wasn't quite sure where to post this. My Specialized Tricross Sport, which was originally designed to take cantilever brakes. However the one I got came setup with v brakes, but with apparently standard Tiagra STI shifters, and cyclocross interrupters. The braking has never been great, and the pads have to be set up very close to the rim, which makes them very susceptible to minor deformations in the rim.

    The LBS has now received authorisation to swap the brakes over to cantilevers at no cost to me.Steve
    Watch out... the reason that Specialized switched from cantis to v brakes to start with was that the bike is extremely susceptible to fork shudder when braking with cantis. (there are threads on this here). In my opinion it is unrideable with cantis especially with larger frame sizes. It is way worse than anything you are experiencing with the V brakes in my opinion.

  7. #7
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    Thanks for the responses everyone - you pretty much hit on every possible factor in my decision process.

    I'm a bit confused about exactly what the v-brakes on the bike are. According to the Specialized website, the brakes are "Tricross-specific forged linear pull, road-lever specific length". Which sounds like the brake and levers are designed as a set. But the LBS guy seemed to be saying that the v-brakes I have were just supplied by a distributor, possibly out of ignorance, and they'd been getting some bikes with v-brakes, and some with cantis, somewhat haphazardly.

    Swapping the Tiagra STI set for special road levers and thumb (or, ewww downtube or bar-end shifters) doesn't appeal to me at all. I like the STIs, so that would be a big expense to get something I enjoy less, for very marginal benefit.

    Similarly but less bad, the Travel Agent would be possible, but expensive, another thing to break, and the reviews seem mixed?

    Which all leaves me with the final issue: the possible fork shudder, which I had heard about, but have not seen (except in a Kona Jake the Snake, which I tested). It seems that was a bigger problem in previous years? This is a 2008 model 54cm frame.

    I think my ideal situation would be if they're willing to supply the cantis free, and let me keep the vbrakes free or cheap. Then, if fork shudder does become a big problem, or if I really don't like the cantis then I can just swap back. Or maybe I can pay them like half price for what are effectively second hand brakes...

    Thanks again for all the input.

    Steve

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    The Travel Agents are not expensive and are a very fine fix for what appears to be a fundamental problem created by mismatched componentry. I don't know where you get the idea that they are expensive and prone to breakage.

    You can likely order a pair from Harris Cyclery, or see if you can source them from an on-line store here in Australia by doing a Google search. You'll probably also need to get new inner brake cables because they are much easier to fit rather than using old stuff.

    Machka had a similar problem with a set-up on the front wheel randonnee bike and it, franky, it was dangerous. I fitted a Travel Agent before BMB in 2006, and she hasn't had any problems since.

    If I was to spec a touring bike in the future with STIs, I would opt for V-brakes and Travel Agents every time.
    Dream. Dare. Do.

  9. #9
    Senior Member Nigeyy's Avatar
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    I suppose it all depends on your definition of what's expensive. I know Harris sells them for $24 each, which is $48 for both brakes -without shipping costs. Since a travel agent is a fix, I would consider it to be an expensive fix and rather put that money towards a traditional braking system. You could certainly get a set of Tekto Oryx cantis, Nashbar clones or maybe the Tektro 520s for that price, plus have some money left over for Koolstop pads. If you use bar end shifters, that's certainly the price (or a very considerable portion) of long pull road levers.

    I've never used the travel agents, but had a friend who did and didn't like them (took them off and the v-brakes he had to put on cantis) and I read one online report (was it Neil Gunton?) who used them and had a cable breakage. That's not to say they don't work, but for that money I think I'd still go with a traditional setup -course, you pays your money, you takes your choice!

  10. #10
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    > I know Harris sells them for $24 each, which is $48 for both brakes -without shipping costs.

    Are you talking about cantilever brakes? If so, that's the one solution I can get for free, as the distributor apparently feels that they are at fault for selling a bike with V-brakes and incompatible levers in the first place.

    Or maybe you mean travel agents. In any case, from what I'm reading, it seems that the travel agents with v brakes would probably be marginally better than straight cantis, but with some risk of difficulty in setting up...and would cost money. So if I can do the canti thing, I will.

    Steve

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    Please be aware that, although the Travel Agent device doubles the cable pull at the V-brake arms, it also reduces by half the force applied to the arms. I tried the STI + Travel Agent + V-brake setup and found the effort required at the STI levers to get acceptable braking effect was very high. Removing the Travel Agents and setting the brake pads closer to the rims solved that problem.

    Regards,
    Bob P.

  12. #12
    Senior Member Nigeyy's Avatar
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    oops should have been clearer; was talking just about travel agents -these little devices change a short pull brake lever (e.g. STI levers) to long pull suitable for v-brakes.

    Quote Originally Posted by stevage View Post
    > I know Harris sells them for $24 each, which is $48 for both brakes -without shipping costs.

    Are you talking about cantilever brakes? If so, that's the one solution I can get for free, as the distributor apparently feels that they are at fault for selling a bike with V-brakes and incompatible levers in the first place.

    Or maybe you mean travel agents. In any case, from what I'm reading, it seems that the travel agents with v brakes would probably be marginally better than straight cantis, but with some risk of difficulty in setting up...and would cost money. So if I can do the canti thing, I will.

    Steve

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    Quote Originally Posted by stevage View Post
    I'm a bit confused about exactly what the v-brakes on the bike are. According to the Specialized website, the brakes are "Tricross-specific forged linear pull, road-lever specific length". Which sounds like the brake and levers are designed as a set. But the LBS guy seemed to be saying that the v-brakes I have were just supplied by a distributor, possibly out of ignorance, and they'd been getting some bikes with v-brakes, and some with cantis, somewhat haphazardly.
    AFAIK, the brakes that are shipping as standard with tricross sports now are "mini V" brakes (ie the "Tricross-specific forged linear pull, road-lever specific length"), which are compatible (just like the cantis) with the Tiagra STI levers that came with the Tricross. I had thought that Tiagra STI levers would work fine with either the cantis or mini Vs, without the need for a "travel agent". (this would not be the case with "regular V brakes", you'd need the travel agent). I'm not sure what a "cyclocross interupter is"?

    If you've got the V brakes rather than the mini V brakes this might be your problem. I'd be surprised if that were the case though.

    "Blue Devil" reported in another thread that he/she had the mini Vs adjusted and is now getting excellent braking and is a happy camper. Since I am getting my Cantis switched in favour of mini Vs, I hope I have the same experience.

    The fork shudder is bad news. You want to avoid it.

    edit: got the mini Vs under warranty. I love them. Fork shudder is GONE. Bike stops real good. A bit of squeal on hard braking but compared to shudder it is extremely easy to live with. I don't know what the future holds (in terms of problems when wheel is slightly out of true or what have you), but so far so good. If you have fork shudder with a tricross, get those mini Vs on there pronto and get rid of the "ABS" on your front brake!
    Last edited by Darrenmc; 06-08-08 at 11:37 AM.

  14. #14
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    Ok, so in the end I took the free swap. I think I would have been in trouble if I hadn't, as I think the LBS really went out of their way to arrange the free swap under warranty.

    Observations:
    * Pads now have a few more millimetres of clearance, which is a *huge* benefit in muddy conditions
    * Much sharper braking, like going from nothing to good stopping in a short range of lever movement
    * On the converse, it takes more hand pressure to stop. Logical, but something I didn't think of.
    * Slightly more fork shudder. Previously I could induce shudder by braking while rolling at like 1kph. Now I get it up to say 3-4 kph. Definitely not an issue under normal circumstances, but something I'll keep an eye on.

    So it's worked out well so far. The feel of braking is much better, none of that long "whooshy" sound before the bike actually starts really slowing down. And I almost never "bottom out" the levers.

    Of course, now I'm wondering why I don't just get disks This weekend went for a ride through the most horrible ever mud of death, like big chunks of clay and sand. My friend with disks was ok, but for me the mud started to cake up in huge wodges around the cantis and eventually start to prevent the wheels turning. It was pretty bizzarre. I was amazed how well the bike performed under all that mud though - changing gears was still fine, despite centimetres of mud in the front dereailleur, a solid film of mud over the chain etc.

    Re: darrenmc's post, I'd have to assume that the brakes I got originally weren't "mini-vs". From what I heard from the LBS, the distributor was careless with what brakes they shipped, then realised their error, and corrected it. They wouldn't have done this if these brakes were designed for the bike. And also, I wouldn't have this big difference in handling and setup (ie, pad clearance).

    I guess if I'd known about the "mini-v" option I would have asked them about it. But I think I'll be ok with the cantis. Brakes aren't something I really want to spend money on.

    Steve

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    i have a 2008 Tricross Sport in 56cm and mine came with canti's. It came with the Tektro model where my 2006 Comp model came with Shimano canti's. I have NEVER had braking problems or fork shudder with either bike either braking hard or soft. It can be done and my thinking it's the adjustment of the brakes verses an incompatable design.

  16. #16
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    Can you trigger shudder by pedalling very slowly while braking medium? Just curious.

    And yeah, I suspect the 2008 model had some work done on this. Most of the shudder problems seen on the net were reported in 05-06, and a couple in 07 (like above).

    Steve

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    Just ride it. MrPolak's Avatar
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    To throw myself amidst the retrogrouch wolfs of historical inertia, I'll say that based on personal and intimate experience cantilever brakes suck, period. My wife's ST700 uses V-brakes with travel agents and they are superior to my cyclocross' bike cantis. My ST700 uses long-reach sidepull (road-brake style) brakes and they are superior to cantis in every respect and they provide room for 38c tires with fenders.

    There's simply no reason to use outdated and semi-functional technology for the sake of fitting into someone's idea of what a touring bike should "look" like. If it means I stop before I run off the road, then cantilever brakes are going in the trash bin.

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    Quote Originally Posted by MrPolak View Post
    To throw myself amidst the retrogrouch wolfs of historical inertia, I'll say that based on personal and intimate experience cantilever brakes suck, period. My wife's ST700 uses V-brakes with travel agents and they are superior to my cyclocross' bike cantis. My ST700 uses long-reach sidepull (road-brake style) brakes and they are superior to cantis in every respect and they provide room for 38c tires with fenders.

    There's simply no reason to use outdated and semi-functional technology for the sake of fitting into someone's idea of what a touring bike should "look" like. If it means I stop before I run off the road, then cantilever brakes are going in the trash bin.

    I can easily lock up 35c slicks on dry pavement with cantis, and the modulation is superior to mini-V's, which in my case were so close to the rim that it was an on/off scenario. All cantis are not the same, but good cantis set up properly are more than enough brake, as evidenced by the fact that traction is the limiting factor in my braking performance.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Darrenmc View Post
    "Blue Devil" reported in another thread that he/she had the mini Vs adjusted and is now getting excellent braking and is a happy camper. Since I am getting my Cantis switched in favour of mini Vs, I hope I have the same experience.
    Yup. When adjusted right, I get nice solid braking. My only complaints are that in order to adjust them right, I lose the ability to use the quick release, as I cant squeeze the brakes close enough together to let the brake cable clip release. The other issue I have noticed is that there is almost zero clearance between the brake pads and the rims. Thus, if it is mucky at all, I easily get mud/stuff stuck in the brakes. I am still of a somewhat mixed opinion of these v-brakes on this bike.

  20. #20
    Just ride it. MrPolak's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by justinb View Post
    I can easily lock up 35c slicks on dry pavement with cantis, and the modulation is superior to mini-V's, which in my case were so close to the rim that it was an on/off scenario. All cantis are not the same, but good cantis set up properly are more than enough brake, as evidenced by the fact that traction is the limiting factor in my braking performance.
    Locking up us not modulation. Modulation is holding your brakes at the threshold of lockup, which cantis are famous for not being able to do. From an engineering standpoint they are inferior by design - the crossover and main brake cable have to take up a LOT of slack to engage the brakes, hence poor modulation.

    Besides, this forum is full of posts about how notoriously difficult cantis are to set up correctly. There's a reason why the entire Mountain Bike industry abandoned cantis in favor of V-brakes - they needed power, modulation, tire and mud clearance. I hear what you're saying but the numbers are stacked against you.

  21. #21
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    The Professional Bicycle mechanics I know have changed their minds about the strength of Cantilever brakes and are pushing V brakes whenever possible. My Comfort bike has very good stopping power with V brakes, but my Cyclecross has a lot to be desired in stopping with Avid shorty 4 Cantilever brakes.

    Mechanics also find V brakes much easier to work on than Cantilever's.

  22. #22
    Senior Member onbike 1939's Avatar
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    I find it amusing that in order to surmount the shortfalls of the modern cantilever brake the manufacturers are reviving the old Mafac cross brake, now in the guise of "Frogglegs". The Tektro version of this, the Tektro CR520 Cantilever, does deliver the goods in my experience in terms of stopping and modulation.

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    Quote Originally Posted by MrPolak View Post
    Locking up us not modulation. Modulation is holding your brakes at the threshold of lockup, which cantis are famous for not being able to do. From an engineering standpoint they are inferior by design - the crossover and main brake cable have to take up a LOT of slack to engage the brakes, hence poor modulation.

    Besides, this forum is full of posts about how notoriously difficult cantis are to set up correctly. There's a reason why the entire Mountain Bike industry abandoned cantis in favor of V-brakes - they needed power, modulation, tire and mud clearance. I hear what you're saying but the numbers are stacked against you.

    I agree with everything your saying... but not if we're talking about STI/Ergo shifters. In my experience, there isn't a v-brake solution (minis, travel agents) that has allowed me to get superior braking performance over cantilevers. In a flat bar scenario where I can use a lever with the correct cable pull and still get the shifting feel I desire, I concur that v-brakes are superior. FWIW I'm using the Tektro wide profile cantis, and they are a bit finicky to set up, though not as much as some other models I've tried.

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    Senior Member Nigeyy's Avatar
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    Sorry this is just not true; cantis usually have better modulation by design than their v-brake counterparts and certainly have adequate mud clearance and power (not that it necessarily proves they are better, but cross bikes are very often equipped with cantis -surely it can't be that they don't work?). I think the lure of pure power (and I for one, was one of them, I admit!) and ease of setup (and probably cheapness) made for the decline of cantis in the mtb sector, though of course v-brakes have been supplanted by discs on almost any mid to high level mtb. We also have to remember the touring market is not the same as the mtb market -just because cantis are not used, does not mean cantis are not suitable for touring -particularly when we have the problem of short pull levers. I do agree that v-brakes have an edge on power, and are easier to setup than cantis (though newer cantis have v-brake style pads which makes it much easier now).

    I have to say, given a choice for touring between the two, I'd prefer well setup quality cantis (which I have on trekking bars) than v-brakes, but that's just based on modulation. I certainly can totally see why people prefer v-brakes as they do possess more efficiency and are easier to setup -but I'm quite content to take my time to set cantis up to get a perfectly strong brake with superior modulation (just my experience having used both). Numbers don't mean anything to me either -it's what works best given my personal experiences that counts most for me.

    To each their own -each good example of each brake style has its advantages. I wouldn't say no to a good example of either style.

    p.s. before anyone thinks I'm a retrogrouch, my main tourer has discs, which in my opinion trumps them all for power and modulation!

    Quote Originally Posted by MrPolak View Post
    Locking up us not modulation. Modulation is holding your brakes at the threshold of lockup, which cantis are famous for not being able to do. From an engineering standpoint they are inferior by design - the crossover and main brake cable have to take up a LOT of slack to engage the brakes, hence poor modulation.

    Besides, this forum is full of posts about how notoriously difficult cantis are to set up correctly. There's a reason why the entire Mountain Bike industry abandoned cantis in favor of V-brakes - they needed power, modulation, tire and mud clearance. I hear what you're saying but the numbers are stacked against you.

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    Quote Originally Posted by justinb View Post
    I can easily lock up 35c slicks on dry pavement with cantis, and the modulation is superior to mini-V's, which in my case were so close to the rim that it was an on/off scenario. All cantis are not the same, but good cantis set up properly are more than enough brake, as evidenced by the fact that traction is the limiting factor in my braking performance.

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